Pension thief verdict: Justice Talba bags one-year suspension without pay

By The Citizen

The National Judicial Council, NJC, Friday, wielded the big stick against Justice Abubakar Talba of an Abuja High Court, after he was found guilty of handing an 'unreasonable' sentence to a self confessed pension thief, John Yakubu Yusufu.

The Council, Friday, suspended the embattled trial Judge for one year, saying he should not be entitled to any form of remuneration within the period.

Talba had on January 28, directed Yusufu to pay a fine of N750, 000, shortly after the accused person who was a former Deputy Director in the pension office, admitted before the trial court that he conspired with six other civil servants and stole about N23billion from the Police Pension Fund.

Though section 309 of the Criminal Procedure Act, CPA, upon which the accused person was charged to court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, gave the court the choice of sentencing the accused to a maximum of two years imprisonment with a fine, however, Justice Talba, used his discretion and ordered Yusufu to  only pay fine and go home.

Meantime, following public outcry and a petition that was filed by the Anti-Corruption Network, led by a former member of the House of Representatives, Dino Melaye, NJC, summoned Justice Talba, and ordered him to file his defence to the allegation that he was bribed by the convicted pension thief.

Though Talba blatantly denied his alleged convivial relationship with Yusufu, however, the NJC, in a press statement it issued Friday, found him culpable, accusing him of judicial recklessness.

Consequently, the Council handed him a one year suspension without pay, maintaining that he failed to exercise his discretion judicially and judiciously.

Besides, the council which adjourned until June 23 to consider the fate of other justices accused of judicial impropriety, equally issued a stern warning to Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court, over plethora of petitions that were written against him.

Specifically, the statement which was signed by the Deputy Director of Information at the NJC, Mr Soji Oye, and made available to  Vanguard read: 'The National Judicial Council under the Chairmanship of the Hon. Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar, GCON, at its Meeting which was held on 24th and 25thApril, 2013 suspended Hon. Justice Abubakar Mahmud Talba of the FCT High Court from office for a period of twelve months without pay.

'Hon. Justice Talba was suspended from office sequel to the Findings by Council that he did not exercise his discretion judicially and judiciously with regard to the sentences he passed on one of the accused persons, Mr. John Yakubu Yusuf in the Police Pension case of FRN Vs Esai Dangabar and 5 Ors.

'It will be recalled that the National Judicial Council at its Emergency Meeting which was held on 20thFebruary, 2013 set up a Fact Finding Committee to investigate the allegations levelled against Hon. Justice Talba in the Police Pension case of FRN Vs Esai Dangabar and 5 Ors.

'The Council however, observed that the Charges that had been brought by EFCC against Mr. John Y. Yusuf in the First Charge Sheet containing Counts 1 to 10 under Section 315 of the Penal Code that provides a maximum jail term of 14 years and fine, were dropped by the EFCC Counsel and substituted with another Charge Sheet with only three Counts under Section 309 of the Penal Code that moulds a lesser punishment of two years imprisonment with or without option of fine.

'The National Judicial Council, in the exercise of its disciplinary powers under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, also issued serious warning to Hon. Justice Talba to desist from unreasonable exercise of judicial discretion in all matters brought before him.

'On the various Petitions written against Hon. Justice Okechukwu Okeke of the Federal High Court who is to retire from service on 18th May, 2013, the Council considered his responses and decided to seriously warn him.